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Innovation Crossroads: The 2024 Anti-Smoking Index Challenges the Global Mindset  


By Federico N. Fernández, We Are Innovation

The release of the 2024 Effective Anti-Smoking Policies Global Index by We Are Innovation (WAI) has sent ripples through the public health sphere, casting a spotlight on the dichotomy in global approaches to combating the tobacco epidemic. With its comprehensive assessment spanning 69 nations and 11 critical categories, the index not only lays bare the current landscape but also underscores the potential of embracing innovation in the fight against smoking.

The rankings paint a vivid picture of contrasting realities. At the vanguard are trailblazers like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and New Zealand, whose progressive policies and endorsement of innovative nicotine products have yielded remarkable results. What is more, the Scandinavian and Oceanic nations stand as beacons of progress, with smoking rates hovering around 5 percent – a near-smoke-free reality that was once deemed unattainable.

However, most of the global population resides in countries where antiquated mindsets and restrictive stances still reign supreme. Emerging economic powerhouses like China and India, home to over a third of the world’s population, find themselves languishing at the bottom of the index. Their hardline approach, characterized by heavy regulation and outright bans on smoking alternatives, not only forfeits the potential for harm reduction but also fuels the flourishing illicit trade. Begging the question: At what cost are these nations clinging to traditional control measures over embracing innovation?

Amidst the global landscape, several countries stand out as regional torchbearers, paving the way for their neighbors to follow. The United Kingdom’s comprehensive strategy, ranking it first in vaping and second in tobacco heated products (THPs), serves as a model for precise guidance on safer alternatives. Sweden’s early adoption and cultural normalization of snus and nicotine pouches have yielded one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe, a testament to the power of embracing harm reduction. And in the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia leads the charge in supporting vaping and nicotine pouches as tools for smoker transition.

As the 2024 Effective Anti-Smoking Policies Global Index aptly illustrates, the road to a smoke-free world is paved with innovation. Nations that embrace a diverse array of scientifically corroborated safer nicotine products, coupled with effective regulation and public education, will be best positioned to consign the devastating toll of combustible tobacco to the history books.

However, the index also calls for policymakers and public health officials worldwide. The patchwork of policies reflected in the rankings underscores the urgent need for a harmonized, innovative, and culturally tailored approach to combat the smoking epidemic. With over 8 million lives lost annually to smoking-related diseases and 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, the stakes have never been higher.

As nations grapple with the complexities of tobacco control, the index shows the need for a balanced and holistic approach. While traditional measures like taxation and public awareness campaigns remain relevant, the integration of innovative nicotine products is essential to bridging the gap in comprehensive anti-smoking strategies.

Indeed, the 2024 Effective Anti-Smoking Policies Global Index challenges the global community to shed antiquated mindsets and embrace innovation as a crucial ally in the battle against smoking. By fostering an environment conducive to the responsible adoption of safer nicotine products and tailoring strategies to cultural contexts, nations can accelerate the transition away from combustible tobacco and pave the way toward a smoke-free future. The choice is clear: maintain the status quo or seize the opportunity to save millions of lives through innovation. 


Federico N. Fernández is the CEO of We Are Innovation, a global network of 40+ think tanks and NGOs, Federico champions innovative solutions worldwide.